Space Group CEO Rob Charlton shares his thoughts on the level of maturity within the built environment in the UK, digital construction methods and processes from design stage through to asset handover

Space Group CEO Rob Charlton

Now in its 60th year, Space Group has seen significant change in our industry and was a very early adopter of 3D design and modelling. Rob Charlton tells us not just from an industry perspective how far we’ve come, but from personal experience what influences change and most importantly the desire to change.

Q: What level of maturity do you think we’re at right now in the UK in our ability to truly meet Level 2 BIM requirements?

A: The reality is we are a long way from the entire industry achieving level 2. I even doubt we will ever get there. The standard is very structured for obvious reasons which may mean consistent delivery will be a challenge.

However, I believe there is commitment from most that construction is digitising and very few are now ignoring it. I think Level 2 provides a great framework for the industry to work within and to use to suit their requirements.

I’m a great believer in that the tail should not wag the dog.

Ultimately, we are all striving to improve outcomes across the construction sector. If Level 2 standards help us achieve this then that’s great.

Q: It’s clear that the art of collaboration and sharing knowledge, skills and expertise is something you feel very strongly about. Is this a key driver for Space Group?

A: At Space Group we are driven by “Making Buildings Smarter” We can’t do this alone, and if we are to make a contribution to the industry we need to work with a wide range of companies and people. All of our most successful projects, which have achieved the best outcomes have had great teams all working together and sharing knowledge to achieve a common goal.

Traditionally we know design and construction has been contractual and siloed. Digitisation helps to break down these barriers and to share information. Fortunately, now we have projects which have completed successfully by focusing on collaboration through a digital framework. This provides the opportunity to turn talk into reality.

Q: Do you see Space Group as initiator of change?

A: I have never seen our role to drive change in our industry. There are many great groups and institutions far better placed than we are. We are driven by improving the outcomes of our clients. Innovation helps us achieve this.

We need to work with great companies and organisations to help us achieve this. We want to bring all of these great people together which was why we started BIM Show Live. This is a great place for sharing and learning and over the years we have built some fantastic relationships and partnerships through the show.

Q: How do you engage with built environment stakeholders to offer new technical solutions and smarter ways of working?

A: We spend time trying to truly understand the challenges faced by our clients. This often means you need to understand their business. When we work with real estate investment trusts their priority is to maximise shareholder investment. Greater predictability and the reduction of risk is all important.

When working with discount retailers their priority is pace of delivery therefore we need to consider standardisation and information exchanged.

We are continually developing new ideas and testing these on our clients.

Q: What is the next step on the UK construction industry’s digital journey?

A: We have proven over the past decade what can be achieved across construction in a short space of time. The industry is now full of clever digital experts who would not have joined the industry a few decades ago. There is now a now a culture of innovation and challenge. We are already looking at technologies from other sectors and how they can improve our industry.

The increasing influence of millennials will continue to challenge and change the culture, digital skills will increase exponentially as new people enter the industry and software will become increasingly intelligent, by using data to allow artificial intelligence to influence decisions.

Hardware will also continue to develop. This will be beyond processing and will start to include hardware such as robotics, reality capture and 3D printing.

It is certainly an exciting time for construction and hopefully we will be able to compete with other sectors to attract the best talent in the years to come.

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